The Spalding Western Relief Road is the “only hope” of stopping future traffic congestion due to increased trains in the town, the leader of South Holland District Council has said.
Lord Gary Porter said that a bridge over the railway at Park Road to alleviate issues when the level crossings are down had been looked into but wasn’t feasible.
And he told the district council’s Full Council last week the bridge planned for the most northerly section of the Relief Road from Pinchbeck Road was important to ‘stop the town being cutting in half’.
Lord Porter was responding to a question from Coun Bryan Alcock who highlighted that further along the same railway line, work had begun on a tunnel under Peterborough amid plans for more trains to use it.
Coun Alcock said: “It’s a mega expensive operation and designed in the not too distant future to put a bit more traffic down the railway line that comes through Spalding.
“Bearing in mind the situation in the town now where at quite regular intervals large trains go through causing traffic chaos for some time.
“We as an authority are trying to upgrade and improve the town centre and it seems as though there’s a number of things likely to mitigate against that.
“We’ve been talking about a bridge over the railway for I don’t know how many years and I’ve been told the upfront funding is there.
“We need to look at funding and get a bridge created over the railway and overcome the difficulties with emergency vehicles sitting in a gridlocked town.”
Lord Porter answered: “Clearly the situation as we’ve experienced when the upgrade of the railway line closed the town off for a large period of time and from one side to the other, highlighted the risks and danger, particularly from emergency services, of any increase in traffic going down that railway line.
“We do know it was Railtrack’s original intention to put 24/7 freight down that line – no increase in passenger frequency, but all in freight frequency, so they could take the freight off the East Coast mainline to increase passenger capacity.
“If we allow the town to be cut in half by the railway line we will be making it even harder to improve the town centre which is why it’s so important for the Spalding Western Relief Road delivery.
“There’s a bridge incorporated in that plan. We did try and get a bridge at the Park Road junction but there wasn’t enough scope for the up road and the down road from the bridge itself.
“As everyone will know, a tunnel under Spalding is probably not feasible, affordable or desirable particularly with the amount of water sitting in the town at the moment.
“The road bridge on that relief road is the only hope of stopping the town being cut in half.
“It’s important really for trade but it’s very important for the emergency services.”
The Spalding Western Relief Road has proved controversial as it’s being built in five sections with only two, the most northerly and southerly, having been funded and having received planning permission.
The Voice this week asked Lincolnshire County Council for an update on the funding situation over the middle sections but were sent the same statement we received last June which said: “No money has been allocated or secured for them at this stage.”
The bridge over the railway is part of the most northerly section from Pinchbeck Road, construction work on which Coun Nick Worth said is due to begin in March.
Last year it was revealed the bridge had to be redesigned leading to an extra £8m cost to the project, taking the cost of that section of the road alone to £28m.
Coun Worth said: “We appreciate that it’s a long time before we get the relief road in.
“Section one (the most southerly) is the next one to come online then it’s a matter of working with the county, Lincolnshire LEP and the government to see if we get forward funding to complete the relief road and relieve the centre of Spalding.
“It’s a medium to long term plan, but that bridge will be done in the first section of work.”
Coun Porter though also expressed doubts of whether additional railway capacity is needed.
“I don’t know if anyone has been into Peterborough Station recently to see the need for additional railway capacity but I’ve got a horrible feeling probably in a post COVID world we’ve already got surplus passenger capacity on the East Coast mainline,” he said. “I think the plans for the diversion of freight will probably be put be put on some sort of backburner.”